United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



First Amendment: Freedom of Association Forced Association

Can the government force people to associate? Making individuals associate or include unwanted others in their group certainly affects the right of free association. Generally, the Supreme Court has upheld mandatory association when the association is content neutral.
Mandatory Fees Important Cases
In Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the Court upheld a mandatory union service charge for all local government employees. The unions argued that the dues were used to support collective bargaining that benefited all employees, union members or not, and therefore all employees had to contribute equally to be fair. The non-members argued that this violated their freedom of association, because they were having to pay money to a union they were not a part of and might not necessarily agree with. The Court held that mandatory union dues, used for collective bargaining purposes, was constitutional. This was because any employees who did not pay would still benefit from the collective bargaining, essentially getting a “free ride” on the contributions of others. However, the Court specifically stated that money donated by non-members could not be used on other political issues. While collective bargaining benefits all employees, campaigning for certain politicians or political issues unrelated to this did not. The unions were free to use their member’s contributions for this, but could not coerce and force non-members to contribute to those causes. Recently, many believed Abood would be overturned in the Harris v. Quinn decision. However, the Court differentiated the cases and failed to expressly overturn Abood. The Court simply declined to extend Abood to the case of home healthcare personal assistants, which the Court determined to be different from other state employees that might otherwise enjoy union benefits.

A similar ruling to Abood was reached in Keller v. State Bar of California. The Court held that state bar dues could not be used to fund advocacy of unrelated political issues such as “gun control or [a] nuclear weapons freeze initiative”, yet could be used for “activities connected with disciplining members of the Bar or proposing ethical codes for the profession.” The similarity between the two decisions being the Court’s efforts to distinguish between associated related to the purpose of the group as a whole and to ideological or partisan issues.

Mandatory association through fees has also been upheld in public universities. In University of Wisconsin v. Southworth, the Court upheld mandatory activity fees. Conservative students had sued the school, claiming that their freedom of association was being infringed by having their activity fee subsidize other student groups. The Court stressed the importance of the activity fee, which served an important interest in keeping campus diverse. As long as the funds were distributed in a content neutral matter, the court decided, then they did not violate the First Amendment.

 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education(1977)

Keller v. State Bar of California (1990)

Harris v. Quinn (2014)

Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin v. Southworth (2000)

Parades Important Cases
Outside of requirements for mandatory fees or contributions, the Court has mostly refused to allow forced association. In the 1995 case Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, the Supreme Court sided with private parade organizers who refused to admit the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual into their parade. The Court emphasized that the parade was an inherently expressive activity, as was the gay organization’s plans for joining. Additionally, the right to free expression and association also included the right to not speak, or not be associated with certain groups. The decision was unanimously in favor of allowing the organizers to exclude the other organization from the parade – holding that “under the First Amendment… a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.” Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston (1995)